Photo Credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO
President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, Oct. 18, 2023.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Joe Biden discussed the IDF’s military operation in Rafah on Monday in a phone conversation.

“President Biden updated the prime minister on efforts to secure a hostage deal, including through ongoing talks today in Doha, Qatar,” the White House said in a readout of the conversation.


“The prime minister agreed to ensure the Kerem Shalom crossing is open for humanitarian assistance for those in need,” the White House said, adding that Biden “reiterated his clear position on Rafah.”

The Kerem Shalom Crossing was closed Sunday immediately following a deadly attack by Hamas that killed four IDF soldiers and wounded 10 others, including at least four in critical and serious condition.

Biden’s “clear position on Rafah” is solid opposition to an IDF operation pending full Israeli disclosure of the IDF’s battle plans and a guarantee for the safety of the civilians sheltering and living in the city.

Earlier in the day, IDF evacuations of those civilians began in earnest and local sources report that thousands of residents have already left the Rafah and relocated to the recommended humanitarian safe zone at Al-Mawasi.

Israel intends to eliminate the final five battalions of Hamas that are holed up in the city together with the terror organization’s leadership who, it is believed, are holding some two dozen Israeli hostages as human shields.

Hamas is a protectorate of Qatar and Iran. The United States has strong diplomatic ties with Qatar in particular, creating a difficult choice for the White House.

Early Monday morning, the IDF launched its Rafah operation with the start of evacuation of civilians living in the city, who were urged by the IDF to move to the expanded safe humanitarian zone set up in nearby Al-Masawi.

Israel’s military is tasked with eliminating Hamas and its leadership, which launched the current war with an October 7 invasion of Israel and slaughter of some 1,200 people, plus abduction of 253 others who were dragged into Gaza captivity.

Shortly after the start of evacuations, Hamas announced it was suspending hostage and ceasefire negotiations with Israel — although the terrorist group has rejected every temporary ceasefire proposal laid on the table since the terrorists violated the previous hostage deal in November.

Gallant Informs Austin
Overnight Sunday night, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant spoke with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who offered his condolences on the deaths of Israel’s soldiers earlier in the day.

Gallant briefed the Secretary on Sunday’s Hamas attack on the Kerem Shalon Crossing in which approximately 10 projectiles were fired from the area adjacent to the Rafah Crossing. Four IDF fighters were killed in the attack, and at least 10 others were wounded, including at least four in critical and serious condition.

During their discussion, Gallant described the efforts undertaken to achieve the release of hostages and indicated that at this stage, Hamas refuses the frameworks at hand.

The defense minister emphasized that military action is required, including in the area of Rafah, due to the lack of an alternative.

“Hamas continues to conduct attacks on the State of Israel and its citizens, while also indicating a lack of seriousness in regard to the frameworks that were submitted for the release of hostages,” Gallant told Austin.

“The State of Israel will not tolerate the ongoing presence of terrorist frameworks bordering its communities, and is committed to achieving the goals of the war – the destruction of Hamas as a military and governing authority, and the return of 132 hostages,” he added.

The defense minister expressed his appreciation to his American counterpart for his partnership and leadership, and highlighted the important role of the United States as it relates to the hostage issue and regional parties involved.


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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for, and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.